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Independent streak can undercut commandment to receive, says devotional speaker

Kent P. Jackson, a professor of ancient scripture in the School of Religious Education, shared with students the importance of being able to receive in his devotional address Tuesday in the de Jong Concert Hall.

Recounting how often the scriptures teach that we must receive, Jackson named the gift of the Holy Ghost, the remission of sin and the opportunity to be perfect, rendered only by Christ’s grace, as instances where we must receive what the Lord is offering.

“Indeed, any notion that we have of personal spiritual accomplishment or self-sufficiency is shattered as we read the scriptures and come to a better understanding of the gospel,” he said.

Jackson shared experiences where he had been taught the importance of being able to receive kindness and service, including the memory of a thoughtful boy in Turkey. He had been on a bus waiting with fellow American tourists when a local boy boarded to hand out sweet cucumbers as a gift of hospitality. After the boy had given out the cucumbers, someone offered him money, which he refused.

“The American became insistent and eventually stuffed some money into the boy’s pocket, much to the boy’s embarrassment and dismay,” he said. “As he tried to escape to the front of the bus, others followed suit, putting money in his pockets or throwing it in his box. As he made his way to the front exit, his expression changed from happiness to disappointment to embarrassment to sadness. By the time he arrived at the front, he was in tears.”

Jackson described the boy as being deeply hurt. “His act of love had been prostituted into an act of business,” he said. “But the people on the bus—all fine people—felt good about themselves; they felt justified. Someone had provided them with a service, for which they needed to pay. They had paid their own way, and they didn’t want to owe anything to anybody.”

Jackson said that the philosophy of self-sufficiency that underlies these instincts runs deep in many Latter-day Saints. He said, “Some think, ‘I don’t need any help. I can take care of myself, and everybody else should do the same.’”

That idea causes people to miss blessings from others, he said. With a knowledge that others are sent to bless us and that we are sent to bless others, Jackson said that he has learned two things: first, to be sensitive to the needs of those around him, and second, to be humble enough to receive help from others.

“What if I am to be the answer to someone’s prayer, or someone’s need,” Jackson said, “and I’m not sensitive to the prompting, or I’m too preoccupied with my own concerns, or too selfish to want to give of myself? …And how foolish would it be of me to ask the Lord’s blessing and then turn down those he sends to respond to my prayers.”

“As in the Book of Mormon, when the Lord provides deliverance or any blessing for us, he often does it through our fellow human beings, sent to serve in his stead if we are willing to receive them. These earthly ministering angels are types of Jesus Christ, the ultimate Ministering Angel. He stands at the door and knocks—sometimes in person and sometimes through the service of others. But we are the ones who need to open the door and receive his blessings.”

The devotional will be rebroadcast and archive information will be available at byub.org/devotionals or speeches.byu.edu.

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